Pfizer, Moderna Say Booster Shots Probably Needed

Ralph Ellis

April 16, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

People who've received both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna coronavirus vaccines will probably need a booster shot this year, top executives for those two pharmaceutical companies said this week.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said people who've gotten both doses would likely need a third shot within 12 months and might need an annual shot thereafter.

"There are vaccines ... like polio that one dose is enough, there are vaccines like pneumococcal vaccine that one dose is enough for adults, and there are vaccines like flu that you need every year," Bourla said on a CVS Health Live event, "Race to Vaccinate." "The COVID virus looks more like the influenza virus than the polio virus."

A top Moderna executive said the United States is in a good position to move into booster shots because of its vaccine rollout, whereas many other nations are still getting first vaccinations.

"It is likely that the countries that have already achieved high vaccine coverage are going to be ready to shift their focus to boosters in 2022 and possibly even starting at the end of this year," Corinne M. Le Goff, PharmD, Moderna's chief commercial officer, said during a call with investors, Business Insider reported.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel made similar comments to Business Insider this week.

"I hope this summer to get the vaccine authorized for a boost so that we can help people getting boosted before the fall, so that we all have a normal fall and not a fall and winter like we just saw in the last 6 months," he said.

Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky told CNBC in February that people may need to get vaccinated against COVID-19 annually, just like seasonal flu shots.

And David Kessler, MD, of the Biden administration's COVID response team told a congressional committee on Thursday that Americans should expect to receive booster shots to protect against coronavirus variants, CNBC reported.

"We don't know everything at this moment," he told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

"We are studying the durability of the antibody response," he said. "It seems strong but there is some waning of that and no doubt the variants challenge ... they make these vaccines work harder. So I think for planning purposes, planning purposes only, I think we should expect that we may have to boost."

The CDC says almost 126 million people in the U.S. (37.9% of the population) have received one dose of vaccine and that 78.4 million people (23.6% of the population) are fully vaccinated.

Earlier this month, Pfizer said studies show its vaccine is 93.1% effective 6 months after the second dose. Moderna said studies show 90% effectiveness in its vaccine after 6 months.


CVS Health Live: "Race to Vaccinate."

Business Insider: "Americans might start getting a 3rd booster shot for Moderna vaccines this year."

CNBC: "Pfizer CEO says third Covid vaccine dose likely needed within 12 months."

CDC Vaccine Tracker.